Passions and Obsessions

From Mindanao to Angono: ManilART 2021 braves the pandemic

Artists do satellite shows online—and on-site

Grand Prize Sovereignty, Matthius B. Garcia's 'Hindi Pasisiil' (2020 oil on canvas, 3x4ft)

‘Blood Compact’, egg sculpture by Rayos del Sol

Thirteen years ago, professional galleries under the Bonafide Art Galleries Organization (BAGO) started a venue and platform with an aim to elevate and professionalize galleries. Hoping to make the art scene vibrant, it established the very first ManilART.

ManilART director Tess Rayos del Sol says that before the pandemic, the week-long art fair gala held at the SMX Convention Center at SM Aura in Taguig City usually attracted 5,000 people, including VIPs, collectors and enthusiasts. She would also schedule at least 1,000 students from public schools for educational art tours and other activities.

But the pandemic that started in 2020 changed that scenario. Because of the limitations in attendance imposed by quarantine, they had to be creative “because we believe that there is no art fair when it is purely online.” Tess suggested a satellite exhibit at Tawid Gallery in Shambala Living Museum in Silang, Cavite. They also revamped their website to make navigating the galleries simple for their clientele.

Grand Prize Legacy, Bernardo A. Maac’s ‘Presentation of the Idol’ (2020, acrylic on canvas 3x4ft)

“This year,” said Rayos del Sol, “is still quite a challenge because of the continued pandemic, and the experimental scheme of granular lockdown in Metro Manila on a Level 4 category wouldn’t allow our art trade fair. Our core group collaborated with the city officials so we can safely say that our fair is safe and approved.”

With this year’s theme of Continuing Legacies coinciding with the Museums and Galleries Month, ManilART has taken a big leap forward and extended its reach by adding six satellite shows in different cities in Luzon and Mindanao. While physically set up in situ, 360-degree walkthroughs on ManilART’s portal bring audiences virtually to the shows simultaneously happening “Off-site” during the fair. This brings art straight to the homes and screens of audiences while remaining bound in its context and place. Synchronously with the “On-site” fair, the portal brings together a shared experience in the celebration of art and a one-stop-shop for the online visitor to virtually experience art “under one roof.”

Opening on October 20 at the SMX Convention Center are 32 exhibitions and the National Quincentennial Commission (NQC) exhibition to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Philippine part in the first circumnavigation of the world, the victory in Mactan, and other related events, collectively known as the 2021 Quincentennial Commemorations in the Philippines (2021 QCP).

Narratives across 500 years are carved by Rayos del Sol on ostrich eggs

Renowned ostrich egg sculptor Danny Rayos del Sol is exhibiting his creation titled Galleon, the Harbinger. In the shape of a ship it was conceptualized as a harbinger of both culture and conflict. Narratives across 500 years depicting the cross and the sword used for conquest, the liturgy gradually replacing incantations, bloodshed and victory, Christian imagery supplanting carved deities and guardians, and blood pacts leading to betrayals are carved by Rayos del Sol on six ostrich eggs and mounted on a 1.5-meter wooden ship by woodwork artist Agi Pagkatipunan and the metal sail by Jik Villanueva.

Winners of the Quincentennial Art Competition spearheaded by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), National Committee on Galleries (NCAG) under National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), National Museum of the Philippines (NMP), and NQC on themes under Sovereignty, Unity, Magnanimity and Legacy will also be exhibited with Kapampangan artist Willie Layug’s sculptures: Lapulapu and the First Mass at Limasawa.

As for the other SMX shows, Danny Rayos del Sol, who is the head of NCAG, has another exhibit at Galerie du Soleil. He says that his solo exhibit titled Shells and Skulls—A Rebirth makes use of ostrich egg shells to symbolize birth and life while skulls symbolize death. His skull art with intricate native patterns is his latest experimentation in carving with intent “to give life to the lifeless skull, to repurpose it and celebrate rebirth.”

Living masters continue to head the roster: Araceli Dans, Ramon Orlina, Romulo Galicano, Nemiranda, Kublai Millan

Living masters of Philippine art continue to headline the roster of ManilART. They include Araceli Dans, who, at 94, continues to paint fine calado embroidery-theme large-scale works coveted by top collectors; Ramon Orlina who is unparalleled for his fine glass sculptures; Romulo Galicano who is a recipient of many local and international accolades; Nemiranda, a chronicler of history through many works of private and public art; and Kublai Millan, Mindanawon prolific painter and sculptor of gigantic public art, and the moving force behind Mindanao Art Fair.

Meanwhile, there’s a new generation of talents putting their best foot forward in this annual event. They include Francis Nacion, Jonathan Dangue, Melissa Yeung Yap, Wencyl Mallari, Kenneth Montegrande, and Katrina Cuenca, among scores of others.

With the advent of the digital stage, ManilART debuts its first “phygital” exhibitor—combining the physical with the digital platforms. G9 ONline will mount a phygital show which will showcase a digital work as a Non-fungible token (NFT), alongside the physical original painting or sculpture. NFT is a digitally encrypted rendition of an original work that can be considered a “digital print or multiple” based on a physical artwork. The NFT is viewed and displayed in a virtual gallery.

For the initial collection, limited edition proofs of the works of Ramon Orlina, Ed Coronel, Bell Sison, Isobel Francisco, among others, will be released.

Balai Kalipay murals by Kublai Millan and other artists

Balai Kalipay or House of Joy, located in the mountainous Malagos area of Davao City, is ManilART’s satellite exhibit from Mindanao in cooperation with the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Cultural Diplomacy Unit. It was built and spearheaded by Kublai Millan with Atty. Elba S. Cruz. Kublai’s vision is to chronicle both indigenous and contemporary Mindanao art in the Balai which houses a huge collection of works of masters and upcoming artists exhibited from floor to ceiling, hallways and rooms, and more.

In the driveway, the first artwork to greet you is the giant monument titled Peace under the Crescent Sky. Haring Agila ampitheater features cubist sculptures of women, sky dancers mimicking the eagle’s movements, and on stage, the Happy Christ Chapel with its façade meant for performances. Under construction is the proposed Museum of Art in Mindanao envisioned to showcase Mindanao’s long history, its stories, myths and legends.

In the heart of Luzon, the very first Tarlac Art Fair opened in the impressive Diwa ng Tarlac, Tarlac City on October 1. The six week-long event showcases a diverse lineup of paintings, sculptures, photographs, pottery and crafts exclusively by more than 100 Tarlaqueño artists and artisans, including Judeo Herrera, Harlem Sunga, Carlo Ramos Dizon, and Mark Lander Garcia. The much-anticipated art fair was made possible by the Tarlac provincial government under Gov. Susan Yap in collaboration with the ManilART. (

From the town known for its carving tradition called dukit which has existed even before the Spanish colonization in the 16th century, comes Ecclesiastes: The Layug Legacy in Betis, Guagua, Pampanga. The ManilART satellite show which opened on October 9 presents the Layugs who have been known for  religious sculptures.

Willy Layug opened his home at Villa de Viatarit in Betis to show a selection of his foremost works

Willy Tadeo Layug is the scion of Alfonso Layug, considered to be the most accomplished sculptor of his time and beacon of light and inspiration of his fellow artists. The younger Layug opened his home at Villa de Viatarit in Betis to show a selection of his foremost works chronicling the development of his style both uniquely Filipino and Spanish-inspired. The Kapampangan artist made the commemorative retablo  for the chapel at the crypt of the Pontifico Collegio Filippino in Rome dedicated to Filipino saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz and Blessed Pedro Calungsod in October 2012.  He conceptualized and made the Our Lady of Hope statue in Palo, Leyte, blessed by Pope Francis in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013. In 2016, Layug received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, a decoration of honor given by the Roman Catholic Church. (

Willy’s brother Edwin is just as distinguished, having excelled in the wood sculpture industry. He is the first Filipino to install a full altar in Singapore, the Pope Pius X Priory retablo along Upper Thompson Road. Edwin said he felt honored to have been entrusted to craft and install the new altar which was a fusion of baroque and classical art. He took pride in the opportunity to showcase Filipino craftsmanship in a foreign country.

In Angono, known as the Art Capital of the Philippines, ManilART opened Likhang Silangan: The Art EASTory of Rizal on October 17 at Angkla Art Gallery. The town was made famous by its sons, National Artist for Visual Arts Carlos “Botong” Francisco and National Artist for Music Prof. Lucio D. San Pedro , and other artists like the Blanco family. The exhibit showcases the restored work of Botong’s apprentice, Salvador Juban side by side with the works of other artists from Rizal. The occasion also saw the unveiling of the new Angkla Art Gallery logo and the blessing of The Dinosaur Park.

Meanwhile, Daloy-Likha International Arts and Nature Society, Ricardo’s Coffee + Classic Cuisine and its Galeria Al Fresco chose Filipino fiesta as theme for the group show they organized for ManilART through the invitation of NCAG under the Sub-Commission on Cultural Heritage of the NCCA. Titled Pyesta, the exhibit in Amadeo, Cavite, features the works of Daloy-Likha founding president Noel P. Bueza, among other artists. ( )

The 6th satellite show is a posthumous exhibit by Carlito Ortega, a noted brass sculptor in his studio, “Casa Carlito’s” in San Pablo, Laguna. The exhibit is a tribute to this soulful artist who sculpted figurative works inspired by Philippine folk art and influenced by his experiences growing up in rural Bukidnon.

For more information, follow ManilART’s social media pages on Facebook and Instagram @manilartfair and visit

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About author


Alma Cruz Miclat is a freelance writer and president of the Maningning Miclat Art Foundation, Inc. She is the author of deluxe books Soul Searchers and Dreamers: Artists’ Profiles and Soul Searchers and Dreamers, Volume II, and co-author with Mario I. Miclat, Maningning Miclat and Banaue Miclat of Beyond the Great Wall: A Family Journal, a National Book Awardee for biography in 2007.

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